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Did India beat Big Pharma in drug patents war?

So has India won the patent war with Big Pharma? Not really. As I wrote when the Novartis ruling came down, India won a battle but the war likely continues.

The Guardian asks:  Did India beat Big Pharma in the patent wars?:

“Two recent court cases in India may have changed the rules of the game. On 1 April, pharma giant Novartis lost a six-year legal battle after the Indian supreme court ruled that small changes to its leukaemia drug Glivec did not deserve a new patent…. (O)nly one month before, India upheld a compulsory licence of Bayer’s cancer drug Nexavar, effectively allowing generics firms to copy a patented drug, reportedly bringing the price down from more than $5,500 (£3,540) per month to $175 (£112). Both rulings are landmark cases, vehemently criticised by both Big Pharma and major drugs-producing countries.”

So, this author asks, has India won the patent war with Big Pharma?

Answer: Not really. As I wrote when the Novartis ruling came down, India won a battle but the war likely continues.

One front is a massive trade agreement now being negotiated — and largely ignored by the mainstream media — known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Here’s an earlier report I did on the TPP, an op-ed for Humanosphere as well as a report in the Public Library of Science blog by the advocacy organization Doctors without Borders, or MSF, that contends these talks threaten to undermine the trend of increased use of generic medicines by allowing the drug industry to extend monopolies and maintain high pricing.

Advocates for the TPP — like the Obama Administration — are less vocal publicly, because the trade agreement is being negotiated behind closed doors and the details largely kept undisclosed. But this report by the Financial Times (need to register to see it) quotes members of the drug industry and intellectual property experts who say India’s win on rejecting Novartis’ drug patent claim may be of short-term benefit to Indian drug makers and of long-term harm to innovation if it inspires similar actions in other countries.


About Author

Tom Paulson

Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science,  medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom[at] or follow him on Twitter @tompaulson.